Cleaners and catering staff at the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) began an all-out, indefinite strike on 15 July.
This is extremely significant. It’s the first all out strike in a Whitehall government department for decades. The demands include the London living wage, sick pay, and direct employment.
The union is paying full strike pay. We won’t let these members be starved back to work. Fundraising for the strike funds is one of the best things activists in the wider labour movement can do to help these workers win.
On Thursday 18, there’ll be a joint march of striking outsourced workers, involving workers at BEIS, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and cleaners from HMRC offices in Merseyside. We’re planning to take a more systematic approach to organising outsourced workers in the civil service, looking to spread the energy of these disputes.
On Monday 22 July, the BEIS strike will expand, as security and post room staff join the strike for a week. They plan to take further action in future. On 26 July, the union will meet with Interserve, the company which employs outsourced workers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to discuss the dispute there and possible union recognition.
Elsewhere in the civil service, we’re fighting against office closures, for example of the tax office in Ealing, where workers have previously struck. Our demand is to keep offices open, but even if they close we refuse to accept that this means workers should lose their jobs; in the 21st century there’s no reason why many office workers can’t work remotely or from home. Some branches in the Department for Work and Pensions are also gearing up for
disputes, over workload and management bullying.
Shortly after taking office as Assistant General Secretary, I published a statement detailing exactly how I’d be enacting my policy pledge to take an average workers’ wage. This has had a positive impact with rank-and-file reps.
I’ve had a good response even from reps who don’t agree with the policy but who think it’s respect-worthy that I’m keeping my commitments.